The Good, the Bad and the Dolce Vita: The Adventures of an Actor in Hollywood, Paris and Rome (Nation Books)

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9781560255758: The Good, the Bad and the Dolce Vita: The Adventures of an Actor in Hollywood, Paris and Rome (Nation Books)
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Born and raised in Brooklyn with a street fighter's instinct and sharp Jewish wit, Mickey Knox leaves the army for the bright lights of Hollywood. But when the rise of McCarthyism puts an abrupt end to his hopes of working in American films, Knox debarks to France and Italy to work in European cinema. It turns out to be the best move of his life. This book—where every major film actor and writer of the last century appears—is a wonderful, gossipy history of European cinema as seen through the observant eye of Knox. From arguing with John Wayne, teaching Anna Magnani to articulate English, to fending off Zsa Zsa Gabor's advances and getting lost in Italy with a hungry Orson Welles, Knox was in the midst of it all, watching with a dry smile and a witty comeback. Of the colorful cast of characters who have passed through his life—Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Anthony Quinn, Henry Fonda, Burt Reynolds, Sam Fuller, Elvis Presley, Gore Vidal—one lasting friendship runs throughout the text. That friend—Norman Mailer—writes a preface to "a rare warrior of that rarely heroic world of stage and screen." Black-and-white photographs are included.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Having worked in the movie business for so long, Knox may have met everyone. Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Bo Derek, Sophia Loren, Laurence Olivier, James Dean, Al Pacino... the list goes on and on. Regrettably, that list is the basis for the book's structure, with almost every one of the more than 60 mini-chapters devoted to an anecdote about a particular celebrity. Born in Brooklyn in 1922, Knox began his career on the New York stage and, after serving in WWII, made a promising start as a contract actor in Hollywoodâ€"part of the stable containing Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. But after several fairly successful B-movie roles, Knox was blacklisted, and his acting career was, with a few exceptions, over. But Knox is plucky, not given to bitterness or defeat. He started a second career as a dialogue coach and screenplay translator of European movies. The influence of so many years working with screenplays is obvious and unfortunate: the book is choppy; the scenes are too short, most often beginning with the entrance of the star ("Clark Gable! The King!"; "The Italian icon: Marcello Mastroianni!"); and several chapters end with italicized epilogues ("fast forwards"). Only on the rare occasionâ€"usually involving Mailer, who wrote the introduction for the bookâ€"do his celebrity anecdotes rise above name-dropping to achieve real meaning. It's a book of moments rather than stories. Knox clearly had a remarkable life; it's too bad it doesn't translate to the page.
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From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Knox might have had an unremarkable career as a minor character actor in Hollywood, but the 1950s Hollywood blacklist of supposed Communist sympathizers snuffed out his American career. Lucky us, though, because that ill wind forced Knox to live a much more interesting life than he had planned as he moved to Italy, chased acting jobs in Europe, and branched out into other areas of the industry, such as translating scripts for spaghetti-western director Sergio Leone and crafting English dialogue to be dubbed into non-English-language films. Better still, he lived to make of his complicated life story a fascinating, highly readable, gossip-besotted memoir. When he isn't reporting on the eccentricities of various prominent and not-so-prominent actors, directors, and other artists, including Tennessee Williams, Anna Magnani, and John Derek, he is settling old scores or recounting his many amorous adventures. Especially hilarious is his account of John Wayne's pal, actor Ward Bond, who had the clout to get an actor off the blacklist, sitting on the toilet while questioning Anthony Quinn about whether Quinn was a "commie." Of course, Knox is a terrible name-dropper--but of the best kind: an interesting one. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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